Do you run a nonprofit and you seek ways to generate income? If YES, here are 50 best revenue generating ideas and opportunities for nonprofit organizations.
Nonprofit organizations are organizations that are started not to make money, but to affect the society positively. Because nonprofits need money for whatever issues they are solving, it is pertinent for them to find creative ways to get these funds since the organizers usually don’t have money of their own.
In reality, most of the income received by nonprofits is generated from fees for services, sale of products, or earned interest on investments and usually not from donations as people think. This means that these organizations have to work for their money.
To be successful in raising funds and generating revenue for your nonprofit, you have to be willing to step outside of the box and be creative in your fundraising ideas. Here are some of the best techniques to utilize in generating revenue.
50 Best Revenue Generating ideas for Nonprofit Organizations
- Hold Special Events
If your nonprofit is still writing letters requesting donations, it is time to take a step forward. Special fundraising events you can include dinners, auctions, 5Ks, bike-a-thons, and walk-a-thons. Choose an event that best lets you present your organization and mission and then create a marketing plan to raise awareness and increase ticket and registration sales.
- Go Fund Me Campaign
Crowd-funding campaigns are on the rise and this seems to be one of the most utilized donation collecting websites these days. Go Fund Me provides you with an easy platform to reach donors on an international basis. This type of fundraising project is best utilized when your nonprofit is looking to raise money for a particular project (i.e. to add a new addition on to your existing building or to purchase an office space). Once your profile and project has been created, you can share via multiple social media platforms including Facebook.
- Request Sponsorship
Provide local businesses with the opportunity to purchase sponsorships for a set fee and in return you can provide them with ways to gain visibility at special events, in your lobby, newsletter, or on your website.
- Advertise for businesses
Offer businesses the opportunity to purchase an advertisement in your newsletter or program for your next event.
- Seek out grants
Take the time to research grant possibilities. There are many organizations that provide monetary grants to nonprofit organizations. Schedule time to research these grants and complete the applications and papers to go with them. If you find yourself short on time, recruit a volunteer that has top-notch writing skills to conduct the writing and research required.
There are numerous foundations, corporations, and government entities offering grants to organizations for a variety of needs, activities, or events. Start close to home in your city or municipal office, then provincial or state and federal jurisdictions. Also search for grants online from corporations and other organizations such as universities, non-profits, and foundations. It takes time to research and apply but it is well worth it.
- Open an Online Store
Sell products online via your website or a third party website that allows you to easily upload graphics (your organizational logo) and create t-shirts, magnets, pencils and other promotional items. This provides you an opportunity to raise money as well as increase brand awareness.
- Provide Rental Space
Does your nonprofit organization have a building? Do you have an office or meeting space available? If you do, you have the opportunity to rent the space in down-time to other organizations or groups in your community. In many cases, such income will be tax-exempt. For example, if you own the building that your headquarters is located in, and you decide to rent out extra space on the weekends for public or private social functions, that income will be tax-free.
Nonprofit museums, arts centers and performance groups rent out their facilities regularly, and that income is not only tax-free, but is often vital to the sustainability of such organizations. The exception is if you make a commercial business out of renting your property. For instance, if you establish a separate entity that only deals with facility rental, rather than having all rentals tied to your nonprofit, then you will need to pay taxes on any revenue you make.
- Partner with Online Sales Websites
Websites like EBay and Amazon offer give-back programs to their customers through eBay Giving Works and Amazon Smiles. Both are simple to register for online and you can use this medium to raise sales for your nonprofit.
- Recycle Phones
Your nonprofit can register with companies online to recycle cell phones for your community. You become a recycling drop off point and the online companies will send you a donation for each qualified cell phone you submit to them. Certain websites offer this kind of partnership and you have to look out for them.
- Matching Gifts Program
Partner with local businesses and corporations and request they match funds you receive for certain campaigns. If you are raising funds for a new building addition and raise $4,000 through Go Fund Me, they would agree to provide a $4,000 matching donation.
- Earn income by selling a unique product
The most obvious way to earn income is to sell something. Develop and sell products related to your cause. The options are endless and can range from T-shirts and stuffed animals baring your logo, to DVDs and other media featuring events or lectures.
Shop around to keep your production costs low, and mention to any potential suppliers that you are a nonprofit organization because you may receive a discount, which will help your keep spending to a minimum. Using local suppliers is also a good way to save money when sourcing products, because your shipping costs could be lower.
You can either open up shop in your office with a retail store, or get a talented volunteer or intern to design an online store. If you don’t have the resources for a store, or for the work entailed in shipping and handling, you can sell your products at another nonprofit’s store or directly to vendors like schools, community groups, corporate offices, locally-owned shops, and others with the infrastructure to distribute.
- Earn income by selling gifts
A clever nonprofit tactic is to give an option to send a gift to a friend or loved one with a donation. World Wildlife Fund has dozens of unique gift options for fixed donation amounts – “infinity sea turtle” scarves, “tropical tumble tower” games, and “snow leopard ornaments” being a few. You can equally tow this line.
- Earn income by selling alternative energy
More and more local energy companies offer the ability to produce electricity on the business or domestic scale and sell what is left unused back to the grid. Whether it be geothermal, solar, wind, or another alternative technology, investing in a green energy infrastructure for your office space could deduct thousands off your operating expense budget and give you a viable revenue source at the same time.
- Earn income by selling your brand for royalties
If you have a trusted brand, you might be able to sell it to “certify” a book or other publication. Earn royalties for years to come from your publications. Royalties can come from a number of sources, particularly book publishing, whether you are able to land a contract with a publishing house or you self-publish.
Books that you can put together to earn for your nonprofit include cookbooks, photo essay and coffee table books, titles that detail the evolution of your organization, or books dealing with the aim of your organization. For example, a nonprofit devoted to domestic violence awareness might publish a book for school counselors that details how to identify and help teen abuse victims.
If your organization takes original photographs for its campaigns, which is often the case with wildlife and conservation organizations, you could also earn royalties from selling limited rights for the use of your photos, such as through stock photography websites.
If you’re a smaller nonprofit, think about writing your own e-book or pairing with an online magazine or book publisher that has a vested interest in demonstrating expertise in your mission area.
- Earn income by selling classes or services
If you offer great classes or community services – why not charge those that can afford to pay? Wild Horse Theater Company in Carson City, Nevada, charges school-aged children who can afford personalized theater lessons to support its wider community work to bring theater to schools and disadvantaged populations. They can keep their fundraising to a minimum this way and still offer the programming aligned with their mission.
- Hold a Field Day
Younger kids usually take part in a field day event in elementary school, but that event tends to get faded out as children move into middle and high school. Get your older kids involved in an active event by hosting a field day. You can plan for traditional games like tug o’ war, three-legged race, water balloon toss, and more. But don’t hesitate to make up your own fun and unique field day games. Charge a small admission fee or charge per game at the event. You can even sell concessions and merchandise like water bottles, t-shirts, and caps.
- Plan a Marathon
Marathons are a tried and true fundraiser for nonprofits that seek to raise awareness and get their entire communities involved for a common cause. While they can take months to plan, marathons can be excellent opportunities to generate more revenue for your nonprofit or charity to continue advancing your mission.
Get the word out about your event early and make sure that participants are aware of the cause that they’re running for. You can set up an online registration portal so that supporters can pay their entrance fees, buy t-shirts or other merchandise, and share the event on social media.
- Host a Patriotic Concert
Hosting a patriotic concert can be an excellent way to bring your community together to support an organization or cause. You can enlist the help of local artists and bands to determine the line-up. Alternatively, you could make your concert have more of a karaoke vibe.
Either way, your community is sure to have a fun and music filled evening. Set a date and time, and then sell tickets at the door and offer concessions for a small price. Don’t forget to set up a general donation table to accept other contributions throughout the night.
- Sell Proprietary Products or Services
Another way to generate revenue for your nonprofit is to sell proprietary products or services that are developed in house by your staff. Consider legally protecting that new tool, process, or product and selling or licensing it to similar yet non-competing organizations. You may find you have a lot of proprietary inventions and processes that could generate revenue for you.
- Host an Art Show
Whether you’re a marvelous artist or have a passion for the arts, you can use your interests to raise money for your project or cause. Search your community for talented artists or use your own works to host an event that puts local artists in the spotlight or displays your creativity.
Find a venue that suits your exhibition, and you can look into using a local school’s gymnasium or auditorium to keep costs low. On the day of the event, charge a few dollars for admission and set up a donation table or booth for general contributions. And don’t forget to price the artwork for sale.
- Consider events
If you have the expertise, facilities, or similar goals, consider hosting large events for sports, conferences, community activities, and other options. Not only can these generate revenue upfront but also indirectly as your organization benefits from great exposure and PR which can leads to increase sales revenues.
- Offer Training Sessions
If you’re paying to attain professional development, training, or education services for your employees, consider partnering with a similar organization or inviting community members to reduce costs. It may pay off your total investment thus saving you the money you had budgeted, or you may even generate a profit.
- Provide Services to Other Organizations
Capitalizing on the expertise and experience of your staff members, you can develop and conduct training programs where attendees pay a fee. Record the training sessions and develop online versions or training manuals for sale. Sell these products on your website. It may mean developing a process to “revenue share” with the employees who help in developing and delivering the training programs. But it’s a win-win.
- Sell smarter
We don’t mean simply try and sell more, but try and sell smarter. Try new or different selling strategies or models. Look for diversification of offerings, partnering with other organizations for gains through cooperative advertising, look for vertical integration opportunities, use lower cost yet broader reaching online strategies, and others ways to increase your sales.
- Reduce overhead
This is another obvious yet often overlooked source of revenue. We don’t mean laying people off, but looking for simple and small ways to reduce costs. Small savings add up over a year and especially over the long-term. Small ways include:
- Use less office supplies
- Automate with technology where possible
- Reduce electricity and water use
- Attend fewer offsite conferences and have more in house, online, or webinar based training.
- Develop a volunteer pool or have students work on projects that you need done but don’t have the staffing levels for. Also, empower your volunteers to identify and secure potential sponsors, and solicit donations.
A larger method is to share enterprise wide services with other similar organizations such as: purchasing, fleet maintenance, janitorial, IT, marketing and others.
- Content syndication sales
Content syndication is a process where you are publishing your content on a third party website in order to maintain its exposure to your target readers. This requires the content producers to generate revenue from another source, such as embedded advertising or subscriptions. This is another way to increase revenue for your nonprofit.
- License Technology or Intellectual Property
Does your organization have a secret sauce that separates it from the pack. Perhaps you have a shortcut or a process that streamlines success, or maybe you’ve even built a system or app that you could license? You can create a valuable app in your industry and license out the app to other venues.
You can charge a nominal licensing fee, which covers the technology maintenance costs. Essentially you have created a self-funding and sustainable software program. So, if your nonprofit has a form of tech or intellectual property, consider opportunities to license it out to other cities, states, or nonprofits.
- Consult or Facilitate Training
Leveraging your consulting or training services is one of the least time and cost-prohibitive ways to generate nonprofit earned income. That’s because it’s easier to simply package your know-how rather than to create something from scratch (like an app, or a new service).
- Gala Events
Many charities hold a gala event each year to help raise funds. The events can be quite costly to organize and run, but can bring in some of the largest revenue of the year. Some organizations can bring in more than $1 million from a fundraising gala through a mix of wealthy donors, corporations that sponsored the event or individual tables, as well as numerous other individuals interested in the cause. Silent and live auctions of travel events, products and other services donated by businesses also bring in revenue during these events.
- Events and Performances
Gala events certainly qualify as important charitable events that can bring in donations. Other events and performances also bring in money. Organizations in the performing arts have a leg up in this category and can present concerts, dance performances and music recitals to help support the arts. Other events can include telethons, such as those that public radio and television organizations hold to secure operating funds.
Spending money is a vital way to eventually make money. Advertising and publicity can increase a charity’s reach and awareness among potential donors. Advertising doesn’t directly generate revenues, but it can lead to giving and related revenue, such as gala attendance or product sales. A celebrity endorsement can have a huge impact as well.
Donations bring in needed revenues, but charities can make them stretch even farther by relying on the generous time individuals are able to donate to their favorite cause. There are even nonprofit organizations that exist to help other charities maximize their army of volunteers. The majority of charities rely mainly on volunteers to help them run, and people can volunteer in many great ways.
- Corporate Support
Most businesses support community causes and include philanthropic donations in their annual budgets. Corporations often look for nonprofit groups that serve the same populations as they serve. For example, an eye doctor might be a good philanthropic partner with an organization that advocates for the blind.
Corporate donations usually are larger than most private funds. Corporate sponsors often request a mention in your marketing material. Offer to place banners at a workshop or conference touting your sponsor’s name or give corporate donors free space in your newsletter or conference program.
- Host tournaments
Golf, tennis and basketball tournaments are crowd-pleasers that draw avid athletes to your events. An entry fee usually is required to play and the facility that hosts the event should be persuaded to donate the area for your event. Like you did with the merchandise, create an annual event that supporters can look forward to each year.
Consider other sporting events as well, such as a marathon or bike race that athletes look for in your area. Besides the entry fees, you can sell merchandise, conduct an auction, host a lunch or dinner and solicit additional donations during the event.
- Retail Stores
Some charities run a retail store where the sale of products helps to fund the organization. Rules vary according to each charity, but all profits or a set percentage go straight to the cause. For example, Oxfam has an online store selling everything from clothing to stationary, and proceeds go toward the organization’s efforts to fight poverty.
- Donations From Supporters
Many people regularly donate a portion of their income to a charity with a special significance. Others make periodic donations when asked or when they have a little extra money. Some people even leave money in their will, bequeathing funds to a charity upon their death.
Charity Navigator notes that total giving to charitable organizations was $316.23 billion in 2012. Individual donors contributed the most to this total, giving approximately $223 billion, followed by $47.44 billion from foundations, $22.14 billion given by bequest and $18.97 billion donated by corporations. Many charities also hold fundraisers where they’re able to earn significant money from supporters.
- Investment Returns
Many charities invest donated funds in income-generating investments. This includes stocks and shares, income from rental properties and interest on funds in savings accounts. Charities can participate in a number of different investing strategies designed to ensure investments are aligned with the mission of the organization, including social investing, mission investing and program-related investing. Stocks and shares are sometimes donated by supporters, who sign over their investments instead of giving a traditional monetary gift.
- Send More Direct Mail
Direct mail is a great way to reach your donors. Direct mail has actually become more effective than email, as these days people get much less of it. It is nice for a lot of people to have a physical letter in front of them from you, and that gives it a personal touch. Here are a few tips for how to best manage your direct mail campaign:
The first thing you want to do is create a mail calendar and solicit your donors regularly. Mail these letters at least once per month. While this may seem too frequent to you, reaching out to your donors monthly is a great way to give them the opportunity to donate when they are ready to—if you aren’t in regular contact with your donors, other organizations will be, and they could get the next donation instead of you.
Give your donors options for different ways to respond—you will of course include a reply card and envelope in your letter, but on top of that, also include other options, such as online giving and a phone number, in case your donors would prefer to contribute with their credit card over the phone.
Include a P.S. Many of your donors will just skim your letter—having a P.S. will reiterate your offer and ask them one more time.
- Hold online fundraisers
As most of us know, fundraisers are a sure way of securing non-dues revenue for many nonprofits. However, have you ever thought about taking your fundraisers to the next level and hosting them online? Hosting an online fundraiser is both a convenient and an effective way of creating a new revenue stream for your nonprofit.
There’s a variety of advantages to an online fundraiser as opposed to an in-person one. Let’s go over just a few. To start off, they can be accessed by people all over the country- even the world. While a normal fundraiser is still effective, it can create some roadblocks for people in different locations.
However, an online fundraiser allows people from various geographical locations to donate. If you open up your fundraiser for 24/7 access, it also allows people to donate at any time. You want there to be minimal roadblocks when it comes to your online fundraiser.
Online fundraisers are also a low-cost alternative to traditional fundraisers. That’s right- they’re a revenue source that can also save your nonprofit money. Hosting a fundraiser online takes out the costs of booking an event space and any other in person costs.
You can keep your online fundraiser budget low by using social media and other free platforms to market. The opportunities with an online fundraiser to save and make money are almost endless.
- Sell branded merchandise
Has your association ever thought of selling branded merchandise to members? While it might seem unusual, it could be a source of revenue that you’re missing out on. Members joined your nonprofit because they believe in your brand. They have similar goals in life, and they want to work with your organization to achieve those goals. Why not offer them another way to represent your brand?
Branded merchandise is a revenue source that doubles as a marketing opportunity. If people see your members representing your brand on a shirt, mug, or tote bag- they might be intrigued enough to start a conversation. You can offer your merchandise at conferences, events, even online. Anywhere where your members flock to your organization is a good place to market your merchandise.
- Blog advertisements
Does your nonprofit own a blog? If so, it could be a great space to sell advertisements for some extra revenue. Ad space is valuable to have for a nonprofit. It’s a way to promote organizations that match your mission statement while also creating a revenue stream. It’s another way to have a mutually beneficial agreement with an organization you believe in.
Your blog is an attractive offer for ad space because it’s a consistent form of content. There are no hidden surprises or red flags when it comes to timing or consistency. There are other valuable ad space forms to offer businesses. You could sell ad space on your mobile site, newsletters or any other appropriate platform.
- Career centers
Does your nonprofit have a trustworthy career center? If not, here’s what you could be missing out on. While there’s a lot of benefits to having a career center, many forget that they can be used as a revenue source. In fact, they’re a great way to increase your organization’s non-dues revenue.
If your website has a career center, you can attract both employers and job seekers to your site. You can also maximize your revenue stream through a career center. If you’re looking to start a career center, you want to look for a way that offer the most opportunities for revenue.
There are many different options for a career center to provide revenue. You can apply an e-commerce system to things like: Job postings, sponsored jobs, featured employers, and resume access. Consider purchasing a career center software if you’d like a new source of non-dues revenue for your nonprofit.
43. Raffle Fundraiser
This is another classic fundraising event idea. The raffle requires you to collect prizes of interest and sell tickets. Decide how much you want to raise overall, estimate how many volunteers can help you to sell tickets, and then determine how many tickets each person should sell in order to hit your goal. Keep one or two larger-value prizes to drive up your totals.